We need preachers who are confident of the truth and power of the gospel, men who will faithfully declare both the judgment of God against sin and the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
On a frosty morning shortly after the beginning of the new year I spotted a message traced out by someone’s finger in the frost and ice on a car window. It read, “Good Riddance 2020.” I wonder what they are thinking now, several weeks into 2021? The nation is currently enduring a lengthy lockdown as a result of the Covid pandemic. With daily confirmed cases still over 30,000 the NHS has virtually reached breaking point. Over 100,000 people have died in the UK as the result of the virus. The social and economic effects are beyond calculation. The politicians tell us that they are doing what they can and are pinning their long term hopes on a rapid vaccination programme.
Those daily statistics do not tell the many harrowing stories of grief-stricken families devastated by the loss of loved ones. Listen to any family affected in this way, or any doctors or nurses who have spent many hours caring for sick and dying patients during the past year.
Sobering as these facts are they do not constitute the real tragedy facing our nation. Bible-believing Christians take the words of Christ seriously. He speaks of events that are the “the beginning of sorrows,” which precede his coming again. Included in those sorrows are earthquakes, famines, and pestilences (Luke 21.11). Previous generations of Christians have seen pandemics, similar in their effects to the coronavirus, as judgments of God. C. S. Lewis used to describe such things as God’s way of shouting at us, to make us listen.
There lies the tragedy. The vast majority of people in our nation are not interested in the message of God’s gospel, let alone the idea that this virus may be a judgment of God, calling us to repentance for our sins. They will not listen to it. Rather they often denounce it and those who speak such things. God’s Word is dismissed as irrelevant. Yet the biblical message is the only hope for the world despite this persistent dismissiveness.
Why is no-one listening? In many cases the message is profoundly resented. The great majority of people believe that God does not see, he is not involved in the affairs of this world; indeed, he does not exist other than in the foolish imaginations of people like Christians. Past events are irrelevant. History is just a catalogue of sad and tragic events, of misfortunes without any meaning or purpose. Nevertheless, there are consequences for such an outlook. Those who staunchly object to the biblical message cut themselves off from any possibility of hope. Their attitude is deeply flawed. Their understanding of the real crisis is superficial. The only other explanation is that events are meaningless and down to bad luck and fate.